Japan Makes Death Look Beautiful


Imagine you’re a professional cellist in an orchestra. Then one day the orchestra dissolves and you’re out of a job. You find a new job–a job in encoffinment, which deals with the “departed,” by ceremonially preparing them in front of mourners before their bodies are placed in a coffin. At first, you’re disturbed by the job, but, then, it grows on you. However, your friends and spouse have other, negative feelings about this job, and your spouse even leaves you. Well, this is the life of Daigo Kobayashi (played by Masahiro Motokiin) in the foreign film, Departures.

Before I saw this film, I was a little close-minded since I had never seen a foreign film before. Plus, the plot did not seem that interesting either. However, after seeing this film, I can honestly say that my close-minded view changed 100%.

One reason for my change is that the film was said to have comical moments; however, with what I read in the plot summary, I just couldn’t see how comedy could arrive in the scenario. For example, I was proven wrong when Daigo’s wife, Mika (played by Ryoko Hirosue), bought some “fresh” octopus from her neighbor to eat. Well, it was fresh, meaning it was still alive without them knowing.

While the film made me laugh, it made me tear up as well. Since death plays a lead role in this film, there are many instances where you see the family of the deceased mourning their loss, but after Daigo prepares the body for departure, you see them in awe, as they say their final goodbyes, since the corpse looks so beautiful.

One of the most powerful scenes during the film, in my opinion, was a montage of Daigo. During it, he plays his cello and prepares a coffin. You see him playing his cello on what looks like the top of a mountain with a field in the background; it was a breathtaking sight. There was also the fact that when he was playing the cello, the music had so much emotion that he was both sad for the distancing of his family and friends, yet content with his life choice.

In conclusion, I had read online that this film actually won the Academy Award for best Foreign Film in 2008, and it was well deserved. For more information on Parkside’s FFS: http://www.uwp.edu/departments/foreign.films/

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